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Govt admits tensions with army, but hopeful of 'truce'

14 April, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The government on Sunday acknowledged that there were certain misunderstandings between it and the army, but the issue was never as serious as depicted by the media.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that coordination and harmony between the government and the armed forces in the past ten months has been historically the best ever. Addressing a press conference at the Punjab House, he said that both the institutions were on the same page on national affairs. He also said that the government and military were in agreement on the issue of talks with the Pakistani Taliban.

Dispelling the impression that the army was not happy with the release of Taliban prisoners, Nisar said: "Let me tell you, the release of non-combatant prisoners was not possible without the consent of the military. All 19 prisoners were released from army's internment centre. Can it be possible to free people from army's custody without its assent?" Nisar asked while promising that 13 more non-combatant Taliban prisoners will be soon released. He, however, said that their release will not come before the next direct talks between the government and Taliban representatives.

While speaking about the release of Peshawar's Islamia College University's Vice Chancellor Professor Ajmal Khan, Ali Gilani and Shahbaz Taseer, Nisar said that the issue would be taken up in the upcoming talks. "They were kidnapped for ransom and we will insist on their swift release," he vowed, saying that the talks are at a very preliminary stage. "In the next face-to-face talks both sides will share and discuss their comprehensive agendas. With progress towards peace, the issue about the release of combatant prisoners will also come at a later stage," Nisar said.

While rejecting reports that the military was not on board over talks with the Taliban, he said, "In tribal areas there is a war-like situation and the military is present there all time. How can it be possible to take decisions without consulting it," he said, adding that both the civilian and military authorities are involved in talks with the militants. "There can be difference of opinion between civilian and army authorities over issues but no differences exist over policy matters," he remarked. The interior minister said that soldiers alone cannot win this war. Success in war against terror, he said, can only be possible when the nation, politicians, media, army and judiciary get on the same page.

Nisar said that media hype was created recently about deadlock in the dialogue process with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In fact, he said, it was decided in the last meeting with intermediary committees of the government and the Taliban that the talks will take place after this Sunday. "It could not take place last week due to the absence of a government committee member," he said.

Nisar accused his opponents of misguiding the nation over national security issues. He said that his government's dialogue bid has resulted in the controlling of incessant violence in the country. "A sharp decline has been witnessed since the talks began. I do not want any credit for my government but the silence in relentless bombings also deserves to be appreciated," he said. The talks, according to Nisar, have changed the perception of even the Taliban, as they had not only condemned the latest bombing in Islamabad but had also declared it haram.

At the start of the conference, Nisar spoke in detail about the ongoing investigation into the bombing in Islamabad which had left 24 people dead and about 120 injured. "I personally monitor the investigation on a daily basis and we are getting close to the perpetrators of the bombing," he told reporters.

Meanwhile, the Taliban side intermediary, Professor Ibrahim said on Sunday that the chances of success of the government-Taliban dialogue process were facing many odds and termed trust deficit as the biggest hurdle.

He also said that the government and army were not on the same page over the dialogue with the Taliban. In an interview to foreign media, Prof Ibrahim claimed that the government had not shared with them the list of the released Taliban-linked detainees. He underscored the need for sharing details of the released detainees so that "we can press the Taliban to free Prof Ajmal, Ali Haider Gilani and Shahbaz Taseer" who continue to remain hostage in their custody.

Prof Ibrahim said: "We had believed that the government and military were on the same page over the peace dialogue, but the army has now expressed reservations in this regard". He said the talks' process also suffered a stalemate due to the infighting among the Taliban factions. Professor Ibrahim Khan assured resumption of dialogue with the Taliban soon. He said that there was no other way out of the crisis except this dialogue, and expressed his strong resolve to pursue the course even if the current efforts failed.

Terming the recent abduction of 17 persons from Haider Kandao Orakzai as a matter of concern, he said that many of the abductees had been released. "Yet, assuring peace is purely up to the government," he said.

Prof Ibrahim backed Taliban's demand for implementation of Shariah in the country. Citing the example of 19th century Afghanistan where the Great Britain suffered defeat, followed by Russia in the 80s and now the United States, he said that it all portends the looming resurgence of Muslim Ummah in the region.

Welcoming the recent offer of peace by Lashkar-e-Islam to the government, he said that the dialogue would have a positive effect on all Taliban groups, "since the establishment of Islamic state is only possible through religion and preaching, instead of violence and war. Meanwhile, government negotiator Rustam Shah said he was hopeful that the peace talks will resume, adding that the venue and date will be confirmed within next two days.


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